Google releases tools for throttle-spotting

Google evangelist and Net patriarch Vint Cerf this week unveiled three tools that ordinary Net users can use to see whether their ISPs are choking up on their bandwidth. The research and evaluation tools add more fuel to the reinvigorated Net-neutrality debate.

The M-Lab (Measurement Lab) suite, co-developed by Google, the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute, the PlanetLab Consortium, and assorted academic researchers, will comprise five user tools; three are ready now.

The Network Diagnostic Tool tests connection speeds and can diagnose any problems that might be limiting yours. Glasnost -- if you don't know what the word means, ask someone who remembers the 80s -- checks specifically to see if BitTorrent is blocked or throttled on your line. The Network Path and Application Diagnosis digs in on problems specific to the "last mile" of broadband networks.

The two components not yet available look equally useful. NANO looks at the ISP to see if it's blocking or throttling specific users, applications, or destinations. And DiffProbe checks traffic prioritization. Cerf's post says that over the next few months they'll be providing 36 servers in 12 locations here and abroad to facilitate testing by both end users and researchers.

Even if you're on the other side from Google in the Net neutrality debate, Cerf writes, the data acquired should be valuable to you. "No matter your views on net neutrality and ISP network management practices, everyone can agree that Internet users deserve to be well-informed about what they're getting when they sign up for broadband, and good data is the bedrock of sound policy. Transparency has always been crucial to the success of the Internet, and, by advancing network research in this area, M-Lab aims to help sustain a healthy, innovative Internet."

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